04/20/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Scientists warn more than 1,000 species are in danger of extinction in southeast Asia

by Santosh Digal
Climate change and human behavior are putting their lives in jeopardy. They include the elephant in Brunei, and the deer in Laos. Their disappearance could bring drastic changes to the lives of 500 million people in the area. The archbishop of Manila calls for the intelligent use of natural resources.

Manila (AsiaNews) -  "Radical environmental changes" and "negligent human practices" are endangering thousands of animal species. Their extinction could harm the lives of about 500 million people in southeast Asia, an area in which there are seven "biodiversity hotspots" out of the 25 in the world; 80% of coral barrier reefs are also in danger.

The alarm has been raised by Rodrigo Fuentes, executive director of the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB), who stresses that 1,312 of the 64,800 species in the region could disappear because of "irresponsible human practices" that are "causing serious harm to plants, animals and their habitats all over the world."

Fuentes recalls that among the species at risk are: the Asian elephant in Brunei, the tameng (or Eld deer) characteristic of Laos, the Sumatran rhinoceros, which is widespread in Malaysia, the Philippine eagle, and a species of bovine characteristic of Thailand (the banteng). "Deforestation, wildlife hunting, climate change, pollution, and population growth" are the main causes of their gradual disappearance.

The scientist suggests eating less meat and avoiding "non-recyclable food containers" that damage the environment, and warns of the danger related to the practice of "deforestation" to make more room for farming. He adds that "the seas and coral reefs are being over fished, damaged and polluted."

In order to stop the disappearance of the biodiversity characteristic of southeast Asia, the member countries of ASEAN have signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, pledging to reduce the extinction of species at risk by 2010, the international year of biodiversity. Fuentes emphasizes that the results obtained so far are unsatisfying, and announces a conference entitled "Biodiversity in Focus: 2010 and Beyond," which will be held next October 21-23 in Singapore.

The Filipino Catholic Church is also coming to the defense of the environment, calling on the population to preserve the natural ecosystem. First among them is Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales, archbishop of Manila, who has repeatedly published pastoral letters in which he recalls that "the present generation needs to use natural resources prudently and preserve for the future." The cardinal has also reiterated that "humans need to reduce environmental waste drastically."

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